Friday, March 15, 2019

Unretiring in Swaziland

In Swaziland, recently renamed eSwatini, there’s a magistrate of sorts known as the “induna” who settles community disputes.  It’s unpaid but an honor that generally is not refused. And so on a trip to South Africa, with a day over the border to the independent state of eSwatini, we sat with the induna of the Mahlanya community to hear about his work, his life and his family.
The Swazi induna with guide Nana Sambo

This induna, age 77, has been asked to do the job for the last 20 years and you’d think by now he might want to retire. After all, it’s a 24-hour job when anyone can drop in on him at any time of day or night, we were told by our guide Nana Sambo (seated next to him in photo) He runs a farm so the vegetables help support his household, and the king of Swatira sends an occasional gift. It also helps that, unlike the king,  he has only one wife.
Polygamy is fine here, if you can afford it, which the king, age 50, apparently can. He currently has some 10 wives and about 40 kids. (He had 12 wives but two  died recently.  We’re told being one of many wives can be a lonely proposition.)
We walked down a dirt road for about 15 minutes to get to the home of the induna.  It is a walk  that anyone who wants a problem resolved must take, perhaps walking even further. The induna does not settle disputes by phone or email, only in person. Nor does he generally meet with tour groups but this was a special opportunity set up by our group, Overseas Adventure Travel.
Most of the problems that come before him, he told us, have to do with disputes over land, for instance, a neighbor building a fence that encroaches on your property.  Some crimes he must turn over to the judicial system. As he explained, doing his job is a challenge sometimes because he never studied law.
Asked if he plans to retire any time soon, he answered that working “keeps his soul young.”
See a video of him here,
The wife of the induna